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Navigating Alimony Payments and Modifications: A Comprehensive Guide

Alimony, also known as “spousal support,” is a financial obligation one spouse pays to the other after a divorce and has become a bit of a dark, taboo subject over the years.

Let’s say a husband was out working while the mother stayed at home and looked after the children. She wasn’t working for decades and had no money of her own, thus having no savings or income in the same sense as the fathers.

The relationship breakdown can leave the wife, in this example, vulnerable and incapable of looking after herself, so alimony exists to soften the transition to independent life.

But alimony isn’t gender-exclusive and can be paid to both men and women, depending on the circumstances.

Sure, there are pros and cons to the payments, and we’ve all heard the horror stories of people being taken advantage of and unfair payments being made, but we’re here today to settle some of these fears.

During this often confusing and emotional time for everyone involved, this guide aims to break down and answer any questions you may have and share tips, advice, and information to help you get through this process as smoothly as possible.

How Does Alimony Work?

As stated above, alimony is a financial obligation where one spouse is ordered to pay the other after a divorce or legal separation. 

The purpose of alimony is to ensure that both spouses maintain a similar standard of living after the end of their marriage.

How is alimony determined?

In most cases, alimony is awarded to the spouse with a lower income or earning potential, particularly if that spouse has been financially dependent on the other during the marriage. 

Factors that can influence alimony eligibility include:

  • The length of the marriage
  • Each spouse’s age, health, and earning capacity
  • The standard of living during the marriage

The contributions each spouse made to the marriage, both financial and non-financial

Are There Different Types of Alimony?

Several types of alimony may be awarded depending on the circumstances:

  • Temporary alimony: This is granted during the divorce process to provide financial support to the lower-earning spouse until the divorce is finalized.
  • Rehabilitative alimony: This type of alimony is designed to help the lower-earning spouse become financially self-sufficient through education or job training.
  • Permanent alimony: This is awarded in cases where the lower-earning spouse cannot become financially independent due to age, disability, or other factors.
  • Lump-sum alimony: Instead of periodic payments, the higher-earning spouse provides a one-time payment to the lower-earning spouse.

How are Alimony Payments Calculated?

The calculation of alimony payments varies from state to state and will depend on your individual circumstances.

Some states have specific formulas, while others leave the determination up to the judge’s discretion. In general, factors that may influence the calculation include:

  • The duration of the marriage
  • The financial needs of the recipient’s spouse
  • The ability of the payor spouse to make payments
  • The standard of living during the marriage

Can You Modify or Terminate Alimony?

Alimony payments may be modified or terminated but only under certain circumstances.

For example, if the recipient spouse remarries or cohabitates with a new partner, the alimony being paid to them may be reduced or eliminated entirely due to the fact that they’ve entered a new partnership and will be able to live independently within their new family unit.

Thus, alimony no longer needs to be paid.

Additionally, if either spouse experiences a significant change in financial circumstances, such as job loss or a substantial increase in income, alimony payments may be adjusted accordingly.

However, cases can vary dramatically, so always consult with an experienced family law attorney to understand the specific alimony laws in your state and navigate the complexities of the alimony process with ease.

To modify an existing alimony order, the requesting party must file a motion with the court, providing evidence of the change in circumstances. 

It’s essential to consult with a family law attorney in your state to understand the specific requirements for alimony modification and the documentation needed.

This can be a lengthy process and can take anywhere between six to eight to complete.

Also, as a bit of an expert note, if both parties were to move away from the state they lived, the laws would usually always go back to the state laws in which the divorce was processed.

Dealing with Non-Payment of Alimony

Non-payment of alimony can create financial hardship for the recipient’s spouse. If your ex-spouse stops making alimony payments, addressing the issue immediately is essential. 

Options include:

  • Reaching out to your ex-spouse to discuss the situation
  • Filing a motion for contempt with the court
  • Seeking assistance from a local enforcement agency

Alternatives to Alimony Payments

In some cases, exploring alternatives to traditional alimony payments may be possible. These options include:

  • Receiving a larger share of marital assets
  • Receiving a lump sum payment
  • Negotiating a reduced alimony amount for a specified period

To ensure everything is handled fairly, and needs are met on both sides, it’s crucial to consult with a financial professional and an attorney to ensure that any alternative arrangements are equitable and adhere to state laws.

The Role of Taxation in Alimony Payments

Now, something that many people tend to overlook when it comes to alimony is how the country’s and state taxation laws come into play. This can be a complicated process because, once again, it varies from state to state.

Here are the basics, but contact a professional in your area who can give you the essential information that will affect you.

Alimony Taxation Before and After the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017, alimony payments were tax-deductible for the payer and counted as taxable income for the recipient. 

However, for divorces finalized after December 31, 2018, alimony payments are no longer tax-deductible for the payer, and the recipient does not need to report them as taxable income. It’s crucial to understand how these changes affect your financial situation and plan accordingly.

That said, while federal tax laws regarding alimony have changed, some states still offer tax deductions or credits for alimony payments.

Preparing for the Future: Retirement and Alimony

And finally, with the average alimony payments being paid anywhere between ten and 20 years (or typically around 60-70% of the time you were married), the chances are you’ll be paying alimony near the older years of your life.

Therefore, it’s also essential to consider the impact of alimony payments on your retirement planning. 

For the payer, this may mean accounting for alimony payments in your retirement budget or setting aside funds to cover future payments. For the recipient, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the duration of alimony payments and adjust your retirement plans accordingly.

Alimony and Social Security Benefits

When it comes to social security benefits you may have, alimony tends to not have too much of an effect. 

If you were married for at least ten years and have not remarried, you may be eligible to claim Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s earnings record. Again, this can get complicated, so check with a professional about the considerations of your individual circumstances.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, navigating alimony payments and modifications involves many interconnected considerations, such as taxation, co-parenting, and retirement planning. 

By staying informed, working with experienced professionals, and proactively addressing potential issues, you can better manage this vital aspect of your post-divorce life and ensure a more stable financial future.

I may need a divorce.
Hi, I’m Lori Barkus, a family law attorney. My Colorado and Florida-based law firm helps women have a successful divorce by achieving the fairest resolution in the most efficient manner possible. And today, I’d like to talk to you about the what-ifs of divorce. Let’s say you’re thinking about divorce, or maybe your spouse has shared some shocking and devastating news about a betrayal or told you that they’re thinking about divorce, and you’re completely caught off guard by this. You’re still determining what you want at this point. You might still be thinking, maybe I can still save my marriage, or it might be unavoidable and the process is moving forward. Your friends and family are telling you that you should go forward. They’re telling you, you should talk to an attorney. You have so much going on. You know you need help but you’re trying to figure out where to go.

We can help with this situation, because it’s something that my firm and I have faced many times over the years. In fact, we’ve seen cases like this so often that we’ve created an offering specifically for you. We do what’s called a strategy session, and the purpose of this session is to answer all of those what-ifs? We’re here to help you, not just tell you that you should go forward with divorce. We want you to understand what would happen if this goes forward. We want you to know what the process looks like. We want to answer your question about mediation. What is it? Is it right for you? What can you expect in terms of custody of your kids? Would you get alimony? Would you pay alimony? How does child support work? What if you want to keep your house? Maybe you’re concerned that your partner is hiding money.

We can answer all of these questions and more. We can also provide resources to help you understand your financial picture and help support you in making the decision. That’s what we’re here to do. We want you to determine if the marriage can be saved and if divorce is the right step for you, and if it is, we want to make your divorce a successful one. If you have any questions, please get in touch.
Divorce FAQs

A divorce mediator is a neutral party who does not represent either person in a divorce. They can help you and your spouse reach an agreement on all divorce-related issues such as child support, parenting plans, dividing property and spousal support. Divorce mediation usually works best when both parties generally agree on how they want to resolve the various issues and are on amicable terms. At Barkus law, we provide a service that includes both mediation time to discuss and work out the details of your divorce as well as the preparation of all divorce-related documents you will need to file with the court. Although she is a family law attorney, in her role as a mediator, Lori Barkus cannot file paperwork on your behalf, nor can she provide you with legal advice. However, she can prepare all of the documents for you and give you detailed step-by-step instructions about how to file your paperwork. Should you have legal questions or require that paperwork filed on your behalf, you should speak with a qualified attorney about your rights and obligations before and even during the mediation process. Mediation is a low-cost and less stressful way to “untie the knot.” Sustainable Family Solutions offers a flat fee for the mediation process and an additional fee for preparing the documents you need to file with the court. Please call us for details.

In a collaborative divorce, both parties are represented by separate attorneys. The parties and their lawyers sign an agreement not to go to court and instead work together to create an agreement that is best for the parties and their children. The parties can end the process if it does not work, but, if they go to court to have a judge decide, they will each need to hire another lawyer. This keeps the lawyers and parties invested in reaching an agreement. Collaborative divorce can cost far less than a traditional or litigated divorce and can help preserve the family and keep children out of the process. If you are interested in a consultation or have questions, do not hesitate to contact Sustainable Family Solutions. Simply click here and send us a message and we’ll get right back to you.

In order to obtain a divorce, one party needs to state that he or she has lived in Florida for six months and that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
A divorce can be granted over one party’s objection. As long as one party meets residency requirements and states that the marriage is irretrievably broken, there is no way to object to or to stop the divorce process from moving forward.

While you are not required to have a lawyer represent you, not having a lawyer can put you at a disadvantage. It is very important that you understand your rights and obligations before you reach any settlement or go to court. You may decide to seek legal advice or representation if you have questions about your rights in the divorce process.

While alimony can be modified, requesting a modification doesn’t mean you’ll get one. It’s not a matter of simply going before a judge and telling them that you no longer can pay what you have been paying your ex-spouse. These cases must be prepared carefully and those seeking a modification must be able to state a legal basis for the change. Under Florida statute 61.13, the trial court judge has the discretion as to whether alimony will be modified. It provides that when “the circumstances or the financial ability of either party changes” either party may apply for an order decreasing or increasing the amount of alimony and the court has jurisdiction to make orders as equity requires, with “due regard to the changed circumstances of the financial ability of the parties.” The party seeking the modification carries the burden to justify the reduction by having to prove a substantial change in circumstances since the original alimony order and that the change in circumstances was not contemplated at the time of the final order of dissolution. The change also has to be “sufficient, material, involuntary and permanent in nature.” In other words, the party seeking a reduction can’t quit a job that paid them $100,000 a year and accept a job that pays significantly less. When it comes to being permanent in nature, this depends on the facts and circumstances of a particular case. Should the spouse paying alimony choose to retire, the court can take that into consideration. However, that doesn’t mean there will be an automatic reduction or termination of alimony. The court has to consider the age of the payor, his or her health, and the reason for their decision to retire as well as the financial circumstances of the recipient. There are many scenarios that can be contemplated when seeking modification of alimony. Modifications require the consultation and assistance of an attorney who understands the process, the risks and the likelihood of success. If you are interested in a consultation or have questions do not hesitate to contact Sustainable Family Solutions. Simply click here and send us a message and we will get right back to you.

The goal of shared parenting is for parents to collaborate and to remain actively involved in their child’s life, not just on weekends or holidays. In most cases, parents share parental responsibility and make decisions together regarding education, health, and other important matters. Timesharing refers to the time each parent is allowed to spend with the child or children. In more and more cases, parents have equal or nearly equal timesharing with the children. Historically, most children whose parents divorce have spent a majority of their time living with one parent — usually the mother — with the other parent getting visitation rights. However, there has been a big push in recent years to balance the amount of time children spend with both parents, giving parents the opportunity to be actively involved in the raising of their children. In most states, including Florida, judges make custody decisions based on a”best interest of the child” standard. However, judges need not explain the reason(s) for their decisions. Several states have gone so far as to pass shared parenting legislation. In 2013, Florida lawmakers approved an alimony reform law that included a provision for shared parenting. However, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the bill. Equal timesharing isn’t for everyone and works best for those who are ready, willing and able to take on responsibilities for their child. If you are interested in a consultation or have questions do not hesitate to contact Sustainable Family Solutions. Simply click here and send us a message and we will get right back to you.

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